Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Copenhagen Beer Celebration Road Trip!


Hello everybody, this is the intro for this story, why an intro you say? Well we got so many impressions from this trip that this is a hopeless attempt to separate them and categorise them, so that this will be easier for you the reader. I could and probably should separate this into more stories, but new stuff is coming up so I need to clear my slate here...

It all started back in September/October 2011 when we first heard about this event, I started a facebook group/event and encouraged lots of local people to join in. When the tickets was put out for sale the 11.11.11 at 11:11 both me and Kjetil sat ready on our computers at work, it was a rush and Kjetil was first able to get through and score tickets. That was exactly half a year before the festival was scheduled. Then later we decided to visit the Sour & Bitter festival also, cause two days of drinking after all is just two days...

The Road Trip:

Just two guys out on a road trip, drinking beer, meeting people and shopping, nothing strange about that! Did you say shopping? Yes, beer shopping of course. If you gaze for long into a beer, the beer gazes also into you! And when you drink Imperial Stout after Imperial Stout for five beer fuelled days, all blacker than Satan’s blackest heart, darkness must come one way or another... ...NOT! Kjetil and me started our little journey straight after work Tuesday afternoon. We headed out on the highway, if there is such a thing in Norway, and set the destination for Patricks Pub in Kristiansand. We spent the night in bunk beds at the luxurious Budget "Hotel" in Kristiansand before driving down to Aalborg for a beer run at Ølkonsortiet, we had a little break in Aalborg, before heading straight for Ølbutikken & Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen. We stayed at the not so amazing "Absalon" one star hotel, but whatever we didn't spend many hours there. Let's talk about some of the wonderful places we visited.

Patricks Pub & Restaurant:

Bartender & Erik Dahl of VANØ at Patricks back room.

Patricks Pub calls themselves an Irish pub and I think that’s hilarious, cause there's no positive references in my head to Irish pubs or the shit they serve. Look beside the Irish decor and the name and there's nothing here resembling an Irish pub. A Kilkenny & Guinness tap might be enough for some people to call it an Irish pub, but I couldn't care less, all pubs serve that crap anyways, but what Patricks actually is good at is Craft Beer. I would like to Honor them with the title Craft Beer Bar, sure it's not all craft beer, and as it is today they probably wouldn't survive without their CB beer. But one look at the shelves and a couple of words with the bartender and you know that’s not where their love and passion lies. A quick look in the menu and I concluded that everything is as it was the last time I visited Patricks back in October 2011. But no, they have a monthly special menu, with the newest beer selection, most of it limited and in constant rotation. We met up with Erik Dahl of "Venner av Nøgne Ø" and he gave me a little tour of the back room together with one of the bartenders. There I found some exciting little treats I hadn't tried before. So you understand what great beer selection this place had I will list up some of what we had had on our night at Patricks: 8 Wired Batch 18 a Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, the first of many stouts we had on this trip, really heavy on the wood, quite nice. Brewdog Abstrakt AB:07 a Whisky cask aged Imperial Scotch Ale, limited to 4.200 bottles. Mikkeller Black Hole Barrel Aged Edition Red Wine, a quite unique beer experience, something to convert wine lovers maybe? Nøgne Ø/Terrapin Imperial Rye Porter on tap, maybe one of my favourite beers so far this year, I've mentioned it in other articles but I don't mind repeating myself when saying this is a world class Porter. Just as full bodied as Midtfyns X-Porter, with a great mouth feel, balanced and luxurious as hell! Not only did we hang out with Erik Dahl of VANØ at Particks, but an old friend of mine and Kjetil, Bjørn and his girlfriend Eva also joined us. Later former Manager of Patricks and friend of Erik Dahl also joined us and that brings us into the next chapter. But anyways, Patricks is the place to be in Kristiansand!

Christianssand Brygghus:

Lars infront of the brand new brewery.

Former Patricks manager Lars Kristian Amundsen offered us a little tour of what is to become Christianssand Brygghus. He told us that the plan is to open in August/September I think. The brewery is at 500 liter and will soon be put to the test so beer will be ready and stored before the opening. To get the right brewpub feeling the tanks and the brewery will be visible from the restaurant, they also plan a backyard under open skies, where you can smoke a cigar while sipping on some Iconoclastic Imperial Stout. Hops might be growing on the walls for decoration, maybe something to use for a hop smoked beer? I expect this place to also have great food and a great beer selection, both their own and from other great breweries and I'm really looking forward to visiting them when they open. Cheers!


Svend & friend.

Ølkonsortiet have existed around 8 years, the shop is run by owner Svend Nymann and some of his friends. Everyone there works for free, it's a non-profit business, and it's only open 3 days a week. They were kind enough to open just for us on a day they were supposed to be closed, and Sven himself came down in his break at his "paying" job to say hello. We got something good in our glasses and started digging in the shelves. Cigar City, Mikkeller, Emelisse, Lagunitas, Evil Twin & more. But one thing that bummed me out was that they had sold all of their Bourbon County Stouts from Goose Island to just one guy. A treat like that is rare in Europe and Ølkonsortiet have nothing to win on just giving it all away to one greedy FUCK! guy. So when we were there lots of boxes was filled with yummy Goose Island stuff and we couldn't buy any of them! But we still left with skinnier wallets that we came with, a trunk full of beer and with smiles on our faces. We will return to Ølkonsortiet, but first we will call them and "lay off" all the really good beers before anyone else can buy them, kidding! Ølkonsortiet was/is rated as the 3rd best bottle shop in Europe, and it’s run by geeks, and that’s the way we like it! (Cause we're geeks too!) The negative part of this little section are just me being a whiny boy so disregard it, cheers Svend, keep up the good work!

Mikkeller bar:

Shady looking boys with Tom "Kjempetorsken" Young.

If there were a bar at the end of the world, inches away from the edge, that would be Mikkeller bar. People from far away would travel here to tell tales of infinite wisdom and share magic elixirs. Brewed up by artists and wizards from all the seven continents of the world. I don't know if I would say that Copenhagen is at the edge of the world, but the selection at Mikkeller bar certainly is out-of-worldly, they have beers from all four corners of the known brewing universe. As the last time we visited this beer Mecca the 20 taps are still there, and they're ever changing, we're talking Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Dark Horse, Cantillion, Three Floyds, Rogue, Pizza Port and more. But what really made my week was their extremely great bottle selection, the vintage bottle selection that is. Some of the vintage beers we enjoyed here was the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008 & 2010, Three Floyds Dark Lord 2008 (Most expensive beer I've ever bought, 650 DK), we compared Orval 2006 & 2007 both looks and tastes differently, we compared Dark Horizon 2nd edition & 3rd edition, I like the 3rd edition the most and so did the 3 others I shared them with. We also had a revisit of the great beers Tyttebær, Sweet & Red Horizon from Nøgne Ø, rare indeed. 

Andrew & Elsa of Nøgne Ø at Mikkeller Bar.

We shared a Speedway Stout from Alesmith with Elsa & Andrew from Nøgne Ø, we shared lots of great and awesome beers with Herman from Cardinal and his friend Lars, 8 wired iStout from New Zealand, Highland & Calvados edition of Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, and one of the highlights of the trip finally trying Hoppin Frog D.O.R.I.S. The Destroyer, an incredible beer, max score! Everywhere we've been the last year or two this beer appears in the lists, but they never have it, it's like Doris have been dodging us, another beer that have been dodging us for a long time is the Great Divide Oaked Aged Yeti, if anyone here reads this and would like to send/share one with us, please message me. I'll be indefinitely grateful! Mikkel and his brother Jeppe was also there, they preferred self-service in the bar. I met Menno from De Mollen in the bar line, we met Mike Murphy from Lervig, Tom from the Kjempetorsken blog, Mikael from Melkebaren in Sandnes, Jakob "The lord of malts" who used to review with the "Master of Hoppets" blog. We met Belgians, Americans and French people coming to Copenhagen for the sole porous of beer! We didn't meet any Germans though, reinheitsgebot, REINHEITSGEBOT!!!!!! Mikkeller Bar is awesome, a top 10 bar on this planet for any true beer geek!

Menno of De Mollen & Haffy at Mikkeller bar, very sober!


Kjetil outside Ølbutikken.

If you're anything like us, you like to do some real shopping while on "vacation", right? Located in the dirtiest corner of Copenhagen, where people come to exchange their greens for live flesh, that’s where Ølbutikken resides. Awarded best Beer retailer in the world loads of times by ratebeer, this store is owned by phantom brewer Jeppe, also known as Evil Twin, brother of Denmark's most famous phantom brewer Mikkel(ler). He also runs a "little" import company called Drikkerige that supplies Ølbutikken & Mikkeller bar with many of their extreme and rare beers. OK, you know those wet dreams you have at night? Where you just dream of awesome beers that you wish you could enjoy in the comfort of your own home, without the hassle of going to the pub or visiting the brewery. Yeah, those super great, rare and awesome beers that you would love to saviour in your cellar for years, laying there just waiting for that rainy day you need something super special, this is the kind of beers you find at Ølbutikken, 250+ beers mainly from Belgium, Denmark & USA. We're talking Alesmith, Mikkeller, Southern Tier, Lost Abbey, Evil Twin, Amager, Cantillion, Jester King, Stillwater, Brewdog, De Mollen, Hoppin Frog, 8 Wired, Green Flash and more, the list goes on, you get the picture. As far as I know this store have been at this location a bit over a year, it used to be in a smaller and more uncomfortable location before. Now you can sit down and have a break, have a beer and do some of what I call "real" shopping, this is the only way to spend your money in Istedgade!

Barley Wine:

It was crowded at Barley Wine when we came.

Since last time we visited Barley Wine their location has changed, now in a bigger & better place, with lots more room for wonderful beers. This place is much more affordable than Ølbutikken, we're talking value for money, bang for the bucks, so the next time I go to Copenhagen I will start my beer shopping here before moving on. Barley Wine got a crazy beer selection, even more than they got at Ølbutikken, Ratebeer claims 400 different brews. BW has lots of rare beers and lots of not so rare beers, but all great beers, no crap. Much more Danish microbreweries than the other stores, many of which I've never tasted or heard of. I would love to spend a week just trying different Danish microbreweries, stay at a cheap motel and just hang out, eat, drink and meet new people. Barley Wine is a great store, with good but a bit slow service, but I highly recommend you take the time and pay them a visit!

Fish & Beer:

Kjetil found some Rogue.

We had to compromise, because we bought so many beers at the first three stores mentioned, that the luggage room of the car was already full. Fish & Beer was a bit outside the centre of the town, their selection was great, and the service was OK. I was a bit disappointed that they actually didn't sell fish cause I had this very different mental image of how the place would be like, almost fairytale like. Big freezers with ice cubes and boxes with fresh fish, refrigerators with cold beer, and workers dressed in white plastic aprons packaging this stuff, tossing beer and fish back and forth while yelling to each other and having fun. They used to sell fish and beer, and the company actually still sells fish, but not in the store, but it's a great name so why not keep it. Kjetil was very happy to find a lot of Rogue we hadn't seen anywhere else here, other than that the selection were kind of like Barley Wine only less. A great store, but still not comparable with the other three stores mentioned here. Will we return? Probably not! Was it worth the trip? Yes!

Sour & Bitter:

Jeppe & Haffy at Sour & Bitter, not looking Sour or Bitter...

Far outside of town, in a run down area there is a big white building. In that building 200-300 lucky bastards gathered to share a special experience of primarily sour and bitter beers. And with the likes of 3 Fonteinen, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, The Bruery & Pizza Port who can complain. This night was filled with wonderful and interesting beers. Bitter Stouts and IPA's from Pizza Port, they started out as a Pizza place back in 1987, but in 1992 they started to brew beer. 4 locations and a bottle shop is it, but they have a great reputation, no doubt due to their great beers, but also due to the fact that Port Brewing/Lost Abbey spun out of Pizza Port. Anyways this is beer you can't find in Europe, so I just had to try them all, all 16 of them. And they came in generous portions too. The Coffee Monster and The Barrel aged Night Rider were my favourites from them, Pizza Port beers taste a lot, their motto should be: More is more! 

Me with brewer of Pizza Port.

When we came we tried some 3 Fonteinen Framboos (The most sought after beer in the world right now!) with Jakob "The Lord of Malts", we also shared a bottle of Millenium Geuze (Bottled back in 1998) from the same brewery with Stian Krog and his VANØ Bergen friends. This is actually where I met the only jackass on the whole trip. An American holding a table for his friends, that just wasn't there, but no one could sit down, it was "their seats." There were six available spaces and this fuck asked me to get his chair back when I sat down. I so badly wanted to tell him to fuck off but Kjetil talked me out of it, my comfort is that all his friends had ditched him and that he probably had a miserable time. Yeah and hopefully the next guy he annoys like that will smack him up a bit, I'm way to nice, but I like it like that...

Us with Head Brewer Fred Karm of Hoppin Frog.

We also met Fred the head brewer of Hoppin Frog and I also talked to the head brewer of Pizza Port. We were introduced to Hanne på Høyden from Bergen, Christer "BeerNorway" showed up and so did Svend Nyman from Ølkonsortiet. We had a great time talking with these people and others. Before the end I bought my Framboos to go, Jeppe himself was the dealer, cash only in the back of a white unmarked van parked in the alley, now I'm trading two of them for a Dark Horizon 1st edition & Stormaktsporter and some other great beers. I also decided to try all the Lost Abbey stuff, and the guys in the bar was cool enough to let me pour my own beers as I tried my way through them. 

This picture speaks for itself on the state of the photographer.

At this point I started getting drunk as a consequence to all the awesome beers I'd been drinking, and I don't really have much more to add. Sour & Bitter was awesome, so my hang over the day after was quite evil, I felt like dying! I actually think I almost did. But what doesn't kill you simply makes you stranger...

Die By The Beer with BeerNorway!


Dan Shelton & Mike Murphy

After Sour & Bitter we met the head brewer of my local brewery Lervig Mike Murphy and some other folks from Stavanger at Mikkeller Bar and we grabbed a cab. Fermentoren was a big bar, with a great tap line, Cantillion & Crooked Moon among others. And this is where we hung out until the small hours. This bar is probably the reason why we overslept and came late for the main event of this trip...

There's a black hole here somewhere!?!

Copenhagen Beer Celebration:

Jeppe, Haffy & Mikkel!

The vision of Copenhagen Beer Celebration is that of Mr. Mikkeller himself Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. The goal was simply to create the best Craft Beer Festival ever: "The greatest beers + The greatest food + The greatest atmosphere + <3 = The greatest beer celebration." At least that’s what it says on the booklet we got upon arrival. This all happened in the 100 year old Spartahallen just outside of Copenhagen centrum. For me this festival was all about the breweries, I had expectations for the food and the breweries; only the brews accomplished my expectations. The food was great, but my expectation was to high. There were beer seminars, 5 different every day covering different subjects, I didn't attend them, I had enough tasting the best beers in the world. With breweries like: Cigar City, De Struise, De Molen, Hoppin Frog, Kernel, Nøgne Ø & Three Floyds who can blame me?

Jakob Schytz & Fred Karm

As mentioned we arrived late the first day, the festival doors opened at 12:00, we were still sleeping at that time, some 4 hours later after deciding whether to live or die from the immense hang over, and after force feeding our self solid food we left for the festival. We got our glasses and chips and started trying different kinds of beer. The beer line up was different both days and so was the food, so I'm really happy about going both days. Another thing I'm also really happy about is the fact that this was not the only beer festival in town this weekend. This is controversial, because this subject has been debated heavily on different forums on the net. Even at Mikkeller bar while hanging out there, one dude was all going like "He did it because so and so", so I told him, "Mikkel is right there why don't you ask him", and he did and I wish I could repeat what Mikkel said, but they both spoke Danish and my Danish isn't very good. 

Evin O'Riordain aka The Kernel.

Well back to the point, why I'm glad: It's not because I think the other festival is shit, but it's a great opportunity for those who wanna see more, not only one of the festivals, but also because the people attending the CBC were only hardcore beer geeks. There was no people trying IPA or Imperial Stout for the first time, people didn't come to get drunk, but to drink great beers and socialise. With one or two exceptions maybe! I think Elsa from Nøgne Ø said it best when Andrew asked us if we were going to both of the festivals: "These dudes are hardcore beer geeks, they won’t go to the commercial festival." After six hours of beer tasting we left for the Mikkeller bar to hang out there.

Die By The Beer poster boy Kjetil!

The next day we arrived a lot earlier, we're now at beer geeking day number 5. One of the first things I hear is Fred from Hoppin Frog saying, "Hey I heard you guys finally got to try the D.O.R.I.S. yesterday! How was it?" De Struise, the only brewery placed on the outside had moved from the front side to the back yard where the festival toilets where placed. We're talking Roskilde festival toilets here, probably, he he! De Struise had a 20 tap festival waggon, they where the only brewery not changing their beer line up between days, but they also had the biggest line up, so I didn't really care. I think they where my favourite brewery at the festival! We ate the food of Jakob Mielckes of Mielcke & Hurtigkarls, Saturdays dish was quite nice, I didn't care to much for the beer that were served with the food, after drinking so many tasty beers this beer just weren't tasty enough in my eyes. We also ate Hot Dog with beer pickles, beer ketchup and beer mustard from John's Hot Dog Deli, we had a great time walking, talking and meeting people. Before the end we took a group picture with Mikkel and Jeppe and I got a few words with Mikkel, he said that what he were most proud of was getting Three Floyds to Europe and to the festival. 

Some woman getting beer!

I really hope Mikkel will do another festival next year, and I really hope I have the opportunity to go. I don't care too much if they still have festival toilets but I would like the opportunity to clean my glass and wash my hands after going to the loo. Oh, and I wanna be able to sit more, so I can hang out longer than I did and try even more beers! Other than that everything was perfect, great event, best line up ever, best beer festival I've ever been to! Two thumbs up! CBC was the highlight of a road trip filled with highlights!

Kjetil, Jeppe, Lars, Herman, Haffy & Mikkel.

Beers from CBC that demands more attention:

De Struise Dirty Horse 1983 7% Wild Ale: One of the oldest beers I've ever tasted, impressively good and complex.

De Struise Black Damnation VI - Messy 39% Imperial "Eisbocked" Stout: These guys should teach Brewdog how to do it, you would never guess it's that strong, drinks like a normal Imp. Stout. Awesome!

Westbrook Mexican Coffee Cake 10,5% Imperial Stout: Spicy dessert of an ale, could just as well been made by Southern Tier. Have this instead of dessert? Yes please...

Evil Twin Even More Jesus 12% Imperial Stout: My kind of beer, an "all in" Imp. Stout from Jeppe brewed at Fanø, great!

Brewdog Anarchist and Alchemist 14% Triple IPA: Finally something new and relevant from the Scots, great beer, go get it and enjoy!

Cigar City Marshall Zhukov's 11% Imperial Stout: One of the best Imperial Stouts in the world, one of the best Imperial Stouts ever, you will never get to try this beer! Ha-Ha! Or maybe you will...

Fanø Bryghus Chocolate Lava 10% Imperial Stout with chocolate, licorice syrup and chili: Starts off with chocolate sweet chocolate flavor, then chili, chili, chili.......HOT!

Mikkeller Spontandoubleblueberry 8%: This beer both looks and tastes amazing, incomparable and unique, a beautiful beer!


The long way home:

The next morning we left the hotel at 11:00 in the morning, and came home at 04:00 in the middle of the night; we had work to attend the next morning, any questions? Yes it was swell!!!!

We returned safely with all our loot!

- Haffy

Monday, 7 May 2012

Øl & Akevittmesse på Røde sjøhus i Stavanger 21.4.2012

Or... Beer & Aquavit Exhibition at Red Sea House in Stavanger 21.4.2012, since this blog is in English and not Norwegian...

Finally a BEER festival in my own town! Even the small town of Nærbø has one; of course Stavanger needs one too!

So the great breweries of Berentsens Brygghus, Lervig Aktiebryggeri & Nøgne Ø showed up, along with newcomers Sundbytunet. Also and maybe the best part was all the great home brewers present, Ølklekkeriet with Ivar Andre Ødegaard fronting and Gyldenlöwe Brygghus with Kim Odland, Boulder Brewery with Hege P. Ingebretsen & Aleksander Baustad, Villgjær with Atle Eikenes Hansen & Nils-Henrik Stokke and the excellent homebrew from the Bryggselv guys Erik Schønsee & Patrick Witte. Yes, I'm name dropping! Cardinal Pub & Bar moved parts of their staff and beers down to the exhibition and also served for Ægir Bryggeri who couldn't make it. A bunch of other suppliers and importers of booze and beer also showed up. There were also lectures held by Petter Nome (TV celebrity), Torkjell Berulfsen (TV celebrity) and Sigmund Melberg of Cardinal. The beer was good the aquavit was nice and we had an amazing time, this is exactly what Stavanger need! But lets categorize a bit and go through this part-by-part.

The night before! Foto: Erik Furulund

Where to begin, where to begin? What about the night before? Because this were kind of a heavy weekend for me. The night before my band Upskirts played a gig at a local festival and the whisky and the beer and backstage party and all that took its toll, so believe me it was no easy achievement to wake up early to go for beer and aquavit tasting. But still there I was 12:30 in the evening carrying a 125-kilo malt order from Bryggselv.no down the stairs at the sea house. Working up a sweat in the hot location already steaming with mashing and boiling from the home brewers. At 13:00 I had my first beer, a great way to kill a perfectly good hang over...

Always nice with some whisky after a show! Foto: Erik Furulund

The Breweries:

Us charming guys hanging out with Elsa!

Nøgne Ø: Elsa Haraldsdottir the sales manager of Nøgne Ø was representing Nøgne Ø this time. For me Nøgne Ø is the ultimate brewery in Norway and we were lucky enough to try some brand new beers: Among them the new Citrus Hystrix IPA that was developed with Norwegian Championship chef Trond Moi of the Bølgen & Moi restaurant. This is a Rye/Oats IPA brewed with tangerine juice and lime but still the first thing you taste is the massive Nelson Sauvin hops. Nelson is an awesome hop, and this was an awesome beer! The next one we tried was the new Imperial Rye Porter brewed as a collaboration beer with the American microbrewery Terrapin. This beer was so awesome that I've already ordered a case of it! Also important to remember is that Nøgne Ø have two new barrel aged beers: Imperial Stout Cognac Edition & Sunturnbrew Borbour Edition out now, great stuff! Nøgne Ø = Amazing!

Haffy and Kjetil with Bo from Lervig.

Lervig Aktiebryggeri: Charlie Magne Melhus & Bo Schiner introduced us a new beer, the Saison Du Soleil, a gastronomical beer breed with red peppercorn and American hops. What’s really cool about this in my eyes is that Lervig gives their other brewers a possibility to make recipes and be a part of a creative team. Mike Murphy has made some really good beers for Lervig and I really like that these other guys also get the opportunity! I was lucky enough to try this beer earlier the same week also and it’s a very special beer, and already on the second try it grew on me. I bet this beer would be great with some fatty fish! Lervig is really in the wind as we say in Norway, so watch out for these guys, I know that they're bound for greatness!

The Die By The Beer crew with Charlie from Lervig.

Berentsens Brygghus: Mr. Harald Berentsen showed up himself and he also brought a new beer, a brown ale called Skumringsøl, this is a 4,7% beer and that means you can find it in the shops! Whoo-Hoo! Berentsen is a great brewery, they make the best Christmas Ales in Norway, yeah them and Nøgne Ø! They also make a pilsner that don't taste awful and most don't do that! (But I don't really drink pilsners!) We're planning a visit there soon, (hopefully) so stay tuned! Yeah and they also make the best <4,7% stout in Norway! (Sorte Får)

My good friend Kim drinking Skumringsøl at the Berentsens stand.

Sundbytunet: Is a welcomed new addition to the Norwegian brewing scene, represented by owner Kjersti Sundby & the Swedish head brewer Frank Werme. I really liked their Emigrant IPA and even their pilsner was OK. But the most interesting thing was the aquavit brewed on 50/50 Kjellerpils & Juleale before added spices and stored on oak. As a snack they also served flatbread made with corn from the mash. Sundbytunet opened on the 11.11.11 so they're pretty fresh and I really want to pay them a visit, cause I'm impressed with their concept! A hotel, a restaurant, a brewery, a shop, man what don't these guys/gals do? I was planning to do an interview with them, but I think I want to save that until I have the time to visit them. Thumbs up and approval from me to you!


Ægir Bryggeri: Cardinal represented Ægir, and they also had an Aquavit. Ægir is a high quality brewery, and I'm looking forward to be able to visit them soon in Flom, I'm also looking forward to their Whisky and the beers stored on those casks again and so on. Since they weren’t there personally I don't really have much news to bring you!

Ægir Aquavit

Home brewers:

Erik from Bryggselv

Alright, that was the Breweries! But a bunch of home brewers were also there, and I tried a whole bunch of their beers, but it's harder for me to write about that because, well there where some beers and I've never heard of them before, the beers that is. Some of these guys also go to the same beer club as I do, but most of the time we try new commercial beers not homebrew! But judging by how tasty these home brews are we need to do something about that soon...


So anyways, I really liked all of them, that is Ølklekkeriet, Gyldenlöwe, Boulder Brewery & Bryggselv. The best beer was the Dogfish Head 120 Minutes IPA clone made by Bryggselv, a 20% ABV lunatic! Totally awesome, I recommended it to anyone who was somebody. Image wise the Villgjær guys really stood out, Indie rock glasses and semi dorky suits, but I don't really know what the deal was with giving out free popcorn, popcorn and beer that's like uhhhh, I don't know, wrong! Maybe I'm being prejudiced here? Their beers weren’t the best of the bunch either, but whatever! If your having fun, don't stop! I know I won't... 

Boulder Brewery

Cardinal Bar:

Sigtuna Beers at Cardinal stand.

Brought a lot less this time, than what they did on the Nærbø Festival last year, but that’s ok, I was happy to see three new beers I hadn't tried from Swedish Sigtuna and the Begian lambic/gueuze Gueuze Tilquin, awesomeness in bottle form! If you’re ever in Stavanger make sure you make a visit to Cardinal, 500+ beers and a great atmosphere, great service! Just smile and say your a beer geek!


The Lectures:

Sigmund Melberg

To be honest I planned to attend a lot more of these, but I had too much of a great time mingling, yes I said mingling, but I did catch Sigmund Melberg's lecture on how to taste beer. Sigmund is the author of the famous beer "bible" at Cardinal. He brought his own beer, the Sigmund’s Herbarium brewed at Lervig, a herbal/spiced beer, good stuff, and you should try it! Where you said? Cardinal! He also brought three other great beers and did a basic walkthrough on how to taste/drink beer, the lecture was filled with fun facts a witty remarks and I recommend it for any newbie if he does it again next year. As Petter Nome talked in the main hall, all the taps were turned off, buuuuu, Petter is great don't get me wrong, and I probably needed the break. Anyways he did his normal thing on beer tradition, drinking culture and history. I believe a lot of people learned a lot from it! The other lectures I didn't catch. But I really believe these things are great for anyone wanting to learn more about beer and alcoholic beverages, in this case Aquavit.

Petter Nome

At the end of the day, we used up the rest of our bongs trying different aquavits and talking to different suppliers, great stuff, I like! But I don't really think I have much more to add, Aquavit means water of life, it's spiced with dill and caraway, I like the ones stored in sherry casks with a "hint" of anis, but make up your own mind, just try a lot of different stuff, don't be afraid, you're not gonna waste your money. The end of the night was spent drinking beer with home brewers and the guys from the home brew shops at Cardinal, good times! Petit and Bryggselv was arguing on whom we should order from and everything went by fine, and the rest is as they say history!

Aquavit man!

Interview with the event manager: Svein Egil Meling

Before we finish this little tale and tell you all you have to show up next year, if there is one next year, we had some words with the event manager Svein Egil Meling:

Where did you get the idea for the Beer & Aquavit Event from and how long have you been working on this, tell us about the process?

The idea came after we arranged a Cognac event, and we asked the visitors if there were any interest for a Beer Event/Festival. I threw in Aquavit also after finding myself at the liquor store not knowing what to buy. I started working on this back in November 2011, because I really like both, especially to some traditional Norwegian food like Pinnekjøtt & Komle. I started by contacting Petter Nome from the Brewery Union & Drikkeglede, he helped me out with advice and contacts. I also spoke with Harald Berentsen from Berentsens Brygghus and Tom from Cardinal. Then we went ahead and contacted sponsors and so on.

Any troubles on the road...?

Yes, the beer business is a slow moving thing, we got lots better response from the Aquavit suppliers. The biggest challenge was that Vectura's new computer system didn't work, so we had delivery problems before the event. One supplier had to cancel due to this and some other had to get out on town and borrow products or buy them at Vinmonopolet.

Will this be a yearly thing...?

We hope so, it depends on the financial side of it, my job is working in the Event agency Høydepunkt. As it is now the financial side isn't more than it has to be, and if we only ran this kind of events we wouldn't survive too long. The advantage is that next time it will be a lot easier to market for visitors and suppliers. We might do a Beer and Whisky thing next time as many people like that combination.

We thank Svein for his response and sum up...

How did we think the event was? Could anything be better? Hmmm, I had an awesome time, and thought the event was great, something better? More breweries I guess, foreign, national, craft breweries, I would love that! And Whisky would be really interesting if it's not just a beer event. But am I complaining? No not at all, I had a great time and I will return next year if they arrange it again, and I will make sure all of you will know about it!

Here's a smiling Aquavit man for you!

- Haffy

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Czech Mate!

So I'm going to the Czech Republic….

Prague; that old dirty medieval slut of a city, with its crocked corners and Neo-Disney castles, where Scandinavian beer zombies crawl around with their fat fanny packs loaded with oil money and greed. The plane leaves at 06:20 sharp and I got a ticket with my name on it. I`ll spare you all the sticky details, but I`ll give you some facts about this awesome place, and the impact this old Bohemian region has had on how the majority of people in the world today drink beer, and how their old and proud tradition of craft brewing has been twisted, manipulated and industrialised through lesser worthy brewers and international corporations.

Let`s begin. The plane is waiting……. Kafka is calling from the grave. Prague; Here I come. The Czech Republic; known for being one of the most economically successful countries in Eastern Europe after the fall of the iron butterfly, only beaten by tiny Slovenia, but who cares about Slovenia anyway. They`re tiny….*. They’re also the world heaviest consumers of beer. Winning! The first thing that strikes you ´when you enter Old Town Prague is the amazing architecture, the grand castles and tall church spires that’s stood around for centuries. It’s really a stunning city to behold. Just thinking about the graves of kings, that’s been entombed for over a millennium up at the castle really puts things in perspective, and tells about what a seat of power this place must have been. As you push your way through the hordes of Japanese and American tourists, climbing up the church spire of Prague Castle and gazing over the ancient city it really makes you want to have a beer. To bad you have to climb down the narrow 280 step staircase again, causing several seizures along the way. You get yourself back to town as quickly as you can. I took the time to do a little bar hopping along the way, as I had already done some research on which bars could be interesting to visit.

First up was the Pivovarsky Klub just outside Old Town. A nice little shack which reminded me a little bit of a rundown Brewdog Bar in Aberdeen, only not as classy or hip. The first thing that struck me was the selection of beers on display, and you could almost mistake it for being a beer shop had it not been for the tables and the bar of course. They had a huge selection of Czech and German lagers of which I couldn't even pronounce the names of. They also had a very respectable selection of Belgian Trappist beers and some more familiar Brewdog and other famous craft beers, but mostly lagers. Since I had already done some research about which beers could be interesting to try, I went straight for the Primator Stout, which I had read a great deal about from other beer bloggers. I knew from the start that this was probably not going to be similar to American stouts that I am so familiar with, so I kinda reset my “asshole beer reviewer” system and went for it. A good stout, no more, no less. It was good to have something different than the super sweet Pils Urquell and Kozel that dominate the bars in Prague and I would definitely recommend it to others. I then went through a list of different local lagers, all of which was a bit too sweet for my tasting. The Czech apparently has no problem adding loads of sugar in their beers and when the beers are low ABV, light bodied and with no special malts it gets a bit too sweet for my pallet. A sweet IPA or Stout I can handle, not to many sweet lagers I`m afraid. That’s why I was so glad to get my hands on an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, one of the few lager beers that I really hold up high. Awesome! It`s like drinking sausage flavoured charcoal. Truly a beer with balls that will give you hair on places of your body you never knew existed. It's probably one of the smokiest beers you can get your hands on, and truly something worth checking out. The Pivovarsky Klub is a place I can recommend to everyone. It was quiet, they served food, even though I only had some cheese with the beers, and they had a fantastic beer menu. I will surly come back to this bar in the future.

The second waterhole I dragged myself into was the Zly Casy, another bar with lots of local brews on tap and a very respectable bottle selection, most of which were imports like Mikkeller, De Molen, Flying Dog & Emelisse. Entering the door I got a bit surprised. There was just an empty corridor, looking very abandoned. Dirty floor, no lights and a crocked Heineken sign on the wall. There was a staircase going down to the cellar and I followed it. Coming around the corner there stood three mean looking enormous guys there where one was holding a huge Rottweiler in a leash. This is where I start asking myself; “wtf have you got yourself into now?”. As I passed them nervously I kindly asked if this was the way to the bar. The guy holding the beast on a leash grunted and nodded downwards. I walked on, expecting to get a swing from a crowbar in the back of my head and gang banged back in some alley. This didn't happen of course and as I came to an arched door with a curtain over it I could hear music coming from the other side. Expecting to enter the lair of Jabba the Hut, I could almost picture the fat slug laughing his ass of as he throws me down to the big frikkin Sarlacc. I pulled the curtain aside, and what do you know: It`s a bar, yeah! Finally I can get down to business. I think I counted around 20 on tap and they probably had roughly around 100 beers on bottle, so it was a fine selection indeed. I went straight for some of the local stuff trying out a nice Matuska Winterbock and a Tambor Tmavy Special 13 dunkel. They also served food here, even though I didn't try it. The place was very nice, located as mentioned in a cellar. Nice, cozy and a place I would have liked to spend some more time in. As they had such a large selection of bottled beers that I wanted to bring back home, I asked if I could buy some with me home. The bartender looked at me like I had just eaten a booger out of my nose, nodded and went back to his business. I then spent about half an hour, like a kid in a toy store, picking out some awesome imported beers. As I was about to leave I remembered that there also should be a beer store located around here somewhere. As I only had the address but not a map I asked the bartender where this store was. “Up street to left” he said in his bad English. I grabbed my severely overloaded plastic bag containing bottles of pure awesomeness and walk back up the stairs proud as a peacock. I walked outside, turned to the left and what do you know, it was the next door building. I now know why the bartender looked at me as if I was wearing my pants on my head when I wanted to by some bottles from him. He probable thought I was the dumbest tourist ever, and I felt like it. 

The beer store was off course Pivkupectvi, and what an awesome store it was. They had stuff from Brewdog, Mikkeller, Hoppin Frog, Great Divide, Nøgne Ø, de Molen etc. and all were awesome. Luckily for me they had none of the beers I bought at the bar so I didn't bother with the fact that I probably paid twice the amount than what the beers would have cost in the store had they had them. They also had a very respectable selection of various Czech and German beers as well and many Belgian beers too. The girl behind the counter knew her stuff and was very helpful and I ended up spending about an hour in there just talking about beer with her and getting recommendations on Czech brews. I probably took with me around 20 beers from here, including the last two Sweet Horizons and Red Horizons they had left. Winning!!! 

I now actually had so many beers I needed a bigger suitcase. As I lined them up on the table at my hotel room I finally became aware of my madness. Who buys so much beer with them home that they not only have to buy bigger luggage, but also almost certainly have to pay overload on the plane trip home, not to mention the fact that they have to pay a toll when declaring it to customs. Who goes out and buys 20 cheap t-shirts from the small souvenir shops in order to tuck in the beers so they won’t break during transport. Who lines up their beer according to brewery, size, and style and takes perverted pictures of them. Me!!! I do that. I`m that stupid. But hey, everybody`s gotta have some kind of malfunction right? All of them made it home safely. Yeti, Schlenkerla Eiche Dobbel Bock, Old Foghorn, Lost Dog and Wood Aged Double IPA from Great Divide was just some of the ones I brought home. They are down in my cellar, waiting for that special moment. They're awesome and they`re mine, my precious...

I tried to use this trip as a mind opener for lager beers. I`m not too keen on lagers, and here is why. If you exclude all the obvious blend brands I am still sitting here with a feeling that ales are far superior to lagers, just because of the fruitiness and complexity the ale yeast brings to the brew. I always feel there's something missing in a lager, even in the really good ones. There is an element that should be there, but which isn't. Even when drinking fantastic beers like eisbocks and dobbelbocks I can never quit escape the fact that I`m sitting there comparing them to ales. But that`s just me. That doesn't mean that I don`t like them or that all lagers are bad. I just prefer ales, with few exceptions. I also found the Czech lagers to be extremely sweet, since many add sugars to them, so it didn't help me either as I explained earlier. So instead of becoming a born again lager drinker, I became a bit curious about the history of lagers and the main difference in lager brewing and ale brewing.

So what is the difference between lager and ale? Well, beer can usually be separated in the two mentioned groups plus wild fermentation, yet there are many different types and styles within those types, which I`ll not go into details here. But...

Ales (Stout, IPA, Porter) are beer that is fermented warm, usually meaning in room temperature. The beer ferments quickly, creating a sweet, fruity and full bodied drink. The yeast strains used are top fermenting yeasts, meaning that the process of turning sugars into alcohol takes place at the top of the cask.

Lager (Pilsner, Bock, Dortmunder, Export and Märzen) is a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures with a bottom fermenting yeast, creating a mild tasting beer where hops play a bigger role (even though this is no longer relevant to most lagers). Most people have drunk it. Most have drunk too much of it and most that drink it will never leave it. You have it in every pub in the world, with a few exceptions. It is everywhere, and usually butt cheap. Norwegians would probable disagree with me here, but compared to most craft brews and other beer styles, lager is the cheapest beer to make, especially 95% of what you buy at the local store or giga mall. They are the most tasteless, least hopped, less malty and generally drunken ice cold, making them even more tasteless, yet they have become so popular across the globe. Why?

It all had to do with the invention of the refrigerator, and all the effects that had on cooking and the everyday household. Suddenly you could store food for longer periods of time, without having your wife dig a deep hole in the ground in your backyard, or if you were lucky, lived next to a deep cave. Actually storing lagers in caves was a common practise throughout the medieval period where bottom-fermenting yeast seems to have emerged as a hybridisation in the early 1400s. The German word “lager” actually means “storage”. So now you could produce large quantities of this beer all year round by refrigerating it during fermentation thanks to the industrial revolution. (Pilsner Urquell was one of the very first to produce their beers like this.) Nothing like a cool drink in the summer months while working in those coal mines eyh.

Since darker and maltier beers costs more to produce due to higher percentage of malt, and they are preferable drunk at higher temperatures, the pilsner quickly became popular during the nineteenth century with the help of intense marketing. Since the beer now also could be made quicker, they replaced ale as the preferable drink during the middle of the 1800`s as the breweries could make cheaper beer for the people. Just in Bohemia ale breweries were reduced from 281 to 18 in just ten years while lager breweries went up from 135 to way over 800 in the same period. In USA another factor also contributed to the rise of the pale lager. They were not bound by the German Reinheintgebot, a purity law, which the only allowed ingredients of beer are water, hops, barley malt  and later yeast.  The law was actually just a means to prevent competition from beers brewed elsewhere with a wider range of ingredients. Could you see my middle finger right now you`d know exactly what I think about the Reinheitsgebot. The Americans introduced corn and rise to the beer, reducing the body and increasing the alcohol content of the beer, reducing costs and upping profit. Welcome Bud, Miller and Coors. I love beers that mix in new and different ingredients. It`s all about making new types of beer and keeping it fresh and interesting, but corn and rise has no part in beer as they add no flavor, no body and nothing else that will make a beer interesting. These ingredients are there just to increase profits for the brewery and trick you into thinking you`re drinking something nice by telling you to drink it ice cold and spewing fancy expensive commercials in your face. There is a reason why people don`t like their beers warm. It`s because you finally get to taste how shitty it actually tastes. A good beer can be drunk at room temperature (depending on the style), as different temperatures will enhance other levels of sweetness and aroma, and if you for example start drinking your Imperial Stout very cold, and let it temper for a while, you will suddenly sit there with a completely different drink at the end, try it.

Enough about that. So now you know why Bud Light has no taste. It`s designed that way. Every time you twist the cork, they laugh in your face, taking your money and spending it on increasingly costly advertisements making you buy more shit they produce. I`d rather spent that money on a trip to Prague any day. Good food, good people, good beer and good bye!

- Kjetil for Die By The Beer blog!